I don't mind the risk of losing data, as I have everything backed up, I'd just prefer there to be the chance of not having to, so if there's anything I can do to preserve the data, I'd rather do that
OK, you know the risk.
Now, you must have a USB drive that can backup.
Just run Live DVD or Debian/mint/partedmagic or any linux DVD you have, run gparted, copy the whole internal hard disk's /dev/sda1 and paste to USB unallocated space, when complete, you have a CLONE of your /dev/sda1 .
So far, from what I gather, I boot into a LiveCD, resize the necessary partition(s) without moving them, then boot into Debian CD and install from there?
A few questions, if that's ok:-
Which partition(s) should I resize? I'm not sure how Mint's installation sets things up, but it was a clean install on an empty hard drive.
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Disk /dev/sda: 80.0 GB, 80026361856 bytes
Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/sda1 * 2048 148080639 74039296 83 Linux
What's my next step?
from your fdisk data, your root is on /dev/sda1, which has the largest size, some 70+G.
So you would shrink this /dev/sda1 and create a 10G-20G space for Debian installation.
Then, boot laptop from Debian CD, and install from there.
Since you mentioned Debian (minimal, netinst), I just want to put a few notes for you, skip reading if you are already experienced dealing with Debian netinstall.
if you have not yet experienced how to install from Debian netinst, you might want to know that you MUST have internet access to start with, and have a lot of free time.
In order that you have internet, your internet access with wired lan must work out of the box with Debian , that is, your wired LAN is already supported by the Debian 'free', default kernel.
Else, you would need to have non-free-firmware preinstalled.
If you do not mind an easier path, then, google and get a Debian Live CD, which can check internet, etc in live mode and let you play before install.
Or, even easier, get a un-official Debian iso,http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/non-free/cd-including-firmware/
this one is the easier, because it has non-free-firmware already preloaded, save much trouble.